Pauly’s Sense Of Snow

Whenever we here in Florida get colder weather, I make an effort to not use the words “cold” that much. The people in the North really know about colder weather, we here in Florida get a reminder about it every now and then. Plus, I lived in Marietta in 1996, and in Charlotte in 1999 and 2000, and trust me, they’re much better at handling cold weather then we’ll ever be.

My first encounter with snow is an open question. I went up to New York when I was a very young child (roughly 1975, when I was either three or four) and I seem to remember there being snow on the ground when I went up there. The famous snow Tampa got in late January of 1977 is also a bit fuzzy in my mind.

When I moved up to Marietta in ’96, it was a bit of a culture shock for sure having lived in Florida my entire life up to that point. One day I’m driving around town listening to 750 WSB radio when they mentioned one day in early March the low one Friday night was going to be 12 degrees. That got my attention.

Then on what was either the first day of spring (or close to it), we got a couple inches of snow just after sunset. I lived next to a general 7/11 type of store where I lived, so I bundled up and walked the few minutes to the store to get a feel for the white stuff. Looking back, it was foolish of me to do, because humans (and, not to mention cars) can go slipping and sliding in the stuff. At one point on the walk back home, I slip and fall for a moment, fortunately unscathed.

A few moments later, I hear a BOOM that I’m familiar with in warmer weather. Yep, a clap of thunder while it was snowing. Almost four years later in Charlotte, I’d hear it again during yet another snowstorm. I thought it was beautiful, and I remember being in awe of the moment.

Sometimes in life, you’re just meant to be where you are, and for me, that moment of “thundersnow” was one of those moments. A good memory.

Pauly The Walmart Janitor

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A trip to Walmart months back produced this kind of haul…

When I can’t pull a story out of the present, as with the writer’s block I had yesterday, I share with you a story from my life.

One of the reasons I talk about Walmart frequently on this blog is that I was a janitor for a store in southeast Charlotte, North Carolina for a year from 1999 to 2000. (That’s a regular Walmart, not one of the Supercenters.) It was pretty mundane, actually. I cleaned and buffed the floors at various times around the store. On occasion, we’d also remove the wax and re-wax a given area of the store, which I was never all that good at. I would also vacuum and sweep the carpeted floors when I wasn’t giving the floors their often needed wax-ons and wax-offs. If emergencies arose, such as spills, or if they needed an extra hand to make sure someone got to their car safe, I’d likely be called to tend to it.

Let me put it to you this way: 16 years and change from having worked there, if you gave me the tools and asked me to do the same job today, I couldn’t remember it to save my life.

A few months after I started working there, I wasn’t the only member of my family there: my mother began working at the same store, which is probably why I stuck around so long.

The one day I’ll always remember was the shift leading up to Black Friday of 1999. My boss Steve, a great guy, was working everyone over as if the store’s appearance was a life or death struggle. You know how it’s said Christmas sometimes turns normal people into maniacs? That was us that night. My goal was to keep a low profile and do whatever my higher-ups wanted.

Remember that this was 17 years ago, and Black Friday that year is probably a cake walk compared to the “zombie apocalypse” it is now. The store re-opened for business at 6:00 am the day after Thanksgiving. Usually I got off work at 6:30, but they told me to take off before the store was besieged by shoppers, as the next shift was already in place to handle them. I left around 6:02, and I was lucky not to be knocked down by the hordes of people who came in, frantically looking for the best deals to put under their Christmas trees.

Just another one of the many stories of my Forrest Gump like existence.

Waiting For Hermine, Or Maybe Ian

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I’ll probably be keeping an eye on what’s now the 9th Tropical Depression of the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season most of the next few days. The weather people in this area have been keeping an eye on this disturbance for a while now, and I mentioned it on this blog last Thursday. It finally became “TD 9” on Sunday afternoon, and is expected to hit around Cedar Key Thursday, which is well to my north, as a tropical storm.

Should the storm get to tropical storm status, it would be named Hermine, unless the tropical depression east of North Carolina becomes one first. In that event, our storm would be Ian.

I’ve lived in Tampa Bay most of my life, except for a year in Charlotte and nine months in Marietta, Georgia. We’ve had many close calls over the years (Elena in 1985 and Charley in 2004 being the more legendary near misses). If a hurricane hits the state, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville don’t usually see it, but southeast and northern Florida do.

When we’re in a storm’s “cone of uncertainty” I’m usually reading the blog of Dr. Jeff Masters over at Weather Underground and the scores of comments people make when there’s a tropical threat out there. I also keep an eye on the Spaghetti Models website, which are those wiggly lines you see that represent where all of the computer models think these storms will go.

Early in the day, not much had changed from what was the original thinking: a sloppy tropical storm that would give the Tampa Bay area about six inches worth of rain around Thursday. As the day progressed, the models moved ever so slightly north, but still a tropical storm all the way.

We should be fine, but it has my attention just in case things change.

Flashback: “Piece Of My Heart” by Janis Joplin

This is one of the songs that if you have your alarm set to the radio, and you hear it first thing in the morning, it will definitely start your heart, no pun intended. Happened to me one Saturday morning back in the late 1980’s when I had my radio set to WYNF, then a hard rock station on 94.9 FM in Tampa.

The first time I heard “Piece Of My Heart” though, it was not Janis’s version, but Bonnie Tyler’s back off of her first album, “The World Starts Tonight” in 1977. I happened to find that album at a Record Bar in Charlotte, North Carolina in the ritzy Southpark Mall back in 1984 when I vacationed up there during the summer. That version of the song was a bit odd, with a violin track behind Bonnie’s soon to be raspy vocals she’d make famous with “It’s A Heartache” a year later in 1978.

Janis’s version of the song made me a fan of hers, and “The Essential Janis Joplin” CD has been in my possession now for over a decade.

Memories Of The Intimidator

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Later today, the Daytona 500 champion will be crowned for 2016, as NASCAR starts its season with its biggest event.

A decade and a half ago, I was watching the same race which Michael Waltrip won, with older brother (and at the time more well known) Darrell putting away any partiality to cheer him to victory at the FOX broadcast booth. There had been a bad wreck behind “Mikey” and second place finisher Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the last turn of the last lap, but the television coverage captured Michael’s win and celebration for several minutes afterward, as would normally be the case.

Sometime after the celebration, I had turned on the XFL game (remember them?) on TV and watched that, thinking the last lap wreck could not have been too bad. Right around 6:30 I was watching NBC for NBA coverage, and I caught Ahmad Rashad giving condolences to the Earnhardt family.

Wait, what?

Flipping around, I caught the word that Dale Earnhardt Sr. had died in that final lap wreck, and I felt terrible. While auto racing is a dangerous sport that has claimed the lives of quite a few drivers (especially in Formula One back in the 60’s through the 80’s, and infrequently in rather gory fashion), it always saddens me when a sport claims someone’s life. Sports are supposed to be fun, not a life or death adventure, though I understand that many race for the “rush” of it all.

News of the senior Earnhardt’s death hit the racing world hard, much like the reaction to Princess Diana’s death in Paris had hit the world three and a half years earlier. They had the services for him at Charlotte’s Calvary Church, which I’d pass every night as I went to the local Walmart on my way to work in 1999 and 2000.

Since then, NASCAR hasn’t lost a single driver to race related injuries, as they’ve made drivers and the courses safe. Racing being what racing is, I don’t doubt there will be another day where a driver is lost (as has happened in other mediums of the sport the past 15 years, most notably to Dan Wheldon a few years ago in Las Vegas), but I’m certainly not looking forward to it.

Snow Day

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I was living in Charlotte, North Carolina on the morning of January 24, 2000. It was a cool, quiet, but cloudy morning in the Piedmont when something happened that none of the meteorologists expected: it snowed. By the time the day was over, there was close to a foot of the white stuff on the ground.

Living in Florida most of my life, it was a bit of a culture shock for me. I had seen snow in Marietta, Georgia in 1996, and a few times in Charlotte that winter. But seeing nothing but snow all over the place and watching it blow around in the wind was something brand new to me, and I watched outside with a bit of awe.

I was working at a Walmart in southeast Charlotte during my stay there as a maintenance guy, keeping the store in “tiptop and cracker jack” shape, as my boss often said. The following night, with the snow still holding its own among temperatures in the teens, I went out to take in some shopping carts.

In the parking lot, I got introduced to the phenomena not cognisant amongst us Floridians known as black ice. I got introduced to it the hard way, slipping hard onto the pavement, but fortunately not breaking anything.

I thought to myself, laying there for a few seconds, “Welcome to weather outside of Florida.” A few months later, I was back where I belonged.

Injured Reserve

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Several members of the Carolina Panthers whoop it up for the cameras during their 38-10 win over Tampa Bay, January 3, 2016.

It was as bad an injury as I’ve seen watching the NFL in over three decades.

Jovorskie Lane of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was injured on the very first play offensively for visiting squad traveling to Charlotte to take on the Carolina Panthers. One part of the leg was pointing the right way, the lower part was mangled and twisted around in a direction legs were not meant to bend.

The injury was so gruesome that the venerable Dick Stockton, who’s called or been a part of NFL games going back to the 1960’s, announced to viewers that the replay of the injury would not be shown due to its graphic nature. I’m sure it reminded many of the Joe Theismann injury which he suffered on Monday Night Football in 1985 in a game against the New York Giants when a shoddy tackle split one of the veteran QB’s legs in at least two places, ending his career.

I’ve been very lucky in my life not to have ever been so seriously injured. The worst injury I ever had was in 1999 when I was at my aunt’s house in Charlotte. I went into a closet pantry to get things for breakfast, having to duck my head to gain access because I’m six-foot-one and the maximum height of the door was shorter.

When I retrieved what was needed, I was in the middle of a conversation with someone, and I literally forgot to duck. WHAP!!! I slammed my head against the top frame of the door, and yes, I could see stars that weren’t really there for a few moments.

I had a cut on my forehead just above the hairline that a professional wrestler would have loved, and my forehead had streams of red running down it from the blood. It was quickly off to the emergency room to get patched up. Luckily, I didn’t need stitches for it, just a lot of gauze to get the cut healed up, much like boxing cutmen use.

I have a hard time imagining what a broken leg must feel like, but that’s why I write, and the great athletes out there in the world of sports play their games.